RODRIGO DELA PEÑA, JR.
Hours after father was cremated, I boarded
a bus bound for the capital, about half
a day away with brief stopovers in open-air
restaurants that reeked of urine, galvanized
roofs corroding in patches. It was high
summer, the vista that whizzed by the window
bone-dry, washed by the glare of equatorial
light. Rows of squat buildings, abuzz with
people holding plastic bags, soon to become
detritus of a small town. Houses whose concrete
fences had been spiked with the glint of broken
bottles. Then the land presented itself,
single-minded in its breadth. Fields tilled
with corn and sugarcane, crops on the verge
of harvest. In the far distance, brushstroke
outlines of the Sierra Madre, as though
the eye can only capture the faintest
hint of—what to call it: the divine? Ineffable
force of which we are only an echo?
The mind galloping across the landscape
as the asphalt road ribboned out ahead
and beyond. And after the trickle of hours,
the gloaming. Factories shutting down, headlights
flickering from the approach of vehicles.
The errant city encroaching like cancer,
composing and decomposing. What goes
on gives way, the sky passing through gradients
of blue to black. I wanted to say
that I’ve reached my destination
but the window kept shifting from one
scenery to the next. The bus hurtled
towards the terminal, my face
a mask floating on the neon-streaked glass.
A Filipino writer based in Singapore, Rodrigo Dela Peña, Jr. is the author of Requiem, a chapbook. His poems have been published in Rattle, QLRS, Hayden’s Ferry Review, We are a Website, and other journals and anthologies. He is a recipient of the Palanca Award for Poetry in 2015.